Rules & Policies Regarding Leaves & Grass Clippings
- The City’s Storm Water Ordinance (Article III Section 3.01(c)5), which was developed to help us comply with the storm water permit that is issued to us by the State of Texas, prohibits grass clippings in the storm sewer system. Not only do they clog the storm drains – which as we’ve all seen, can be filled to capacity during flood events – but they add organic material to the drainage system that can provide a breeding ground for bacteria and insects.
- In an effort to save landfill space, the City of Arlington banned the curbside collection of bagged grass clippings when we adopted the “Don’t Bag It” program in 1993. According to the Don’t Bag It program, presented by the Texas Agricultural Extension Service, leaving clippings on the lawn and allowing them to work their way back into the soil, helps produce a beautiful, green lawn. For details about the program please see “Don’t Bag It” below.
So, what should you do?
- Mulch the grass back into your yard as you mow. Contrary to some beliefs, this is beneficial to your lawn as long as you mow regularly and don’t cut off too much of the grass at one time. Just remember… when you’re cleaning up afterward with the leaf blower, don’t blow clippings into the gutter, blow them back up onto your lawn instead.
- Create a composting area in your yard for grass clippings. Good compost will give you a ready supply of mulch and soil enhancers for planting flowers and vegetable gardens, and whatever you put there stays out of our landfill. The City of Arlington Master Composter Program offers free monthly backyard composting classes. For details, please see Free Backyard Composting Classes below.
- If you do bag your clippings, you’ll need to take them to the City’s landfill. The operator of our landfill, Republic Waste Services, will take bagged clippings at an area of the landfill specifically reserved for yard waste. The charge to bring a pick-up truck load of clippings to the landfill is $6.00 for residents. If you have any questions about what the landfill will or will not accept, you can call Republic Waste Services at 817-354-2300. The landfill’s address is 800 Mosier Valley Road, Arlington TX 76040 Location Map.
Don’t Bag It
The single most important factor in maintaining a beautiful lawn is proper mowing. Poor mowing practices can have many devastating effects on the lawn that no amount of fertilizer, no amount of water, and no amount of pesticides can correct. The three most common mowing errors are improper cutting height, improper frequency of mowing and mowing with a dull blade.Turf grass researchers have identified the ideal cutting height range for each of the turf grasses we commonly use here for our lawns. Cut St. Augustine grass at 2 1/2 to 3 inches; for the hybrid or “Tif” Bermuda grasses, 1/2 to 3/4 inch; and for common Bermuda grass, 1/2 to 1 inch. Make sure you know which turf grass is in your lawn and set your mower accordingly.
Of equal importance to cutting height is mowing frequency. Associated with mowing frequency is the somewhat controversial subject of whether or not the clippings should be removed from the lawn.The frequency at which the lawn should be mowed is dependent on the growth rate of the lawn. The lawn should be mowed when the height of the turf is such that no more than 1/3 of the grass blade is removed at one mowing. If the mower is set for 3 inches, then the lawn should be mowed when it reaches 4 1/2 inches in height.If this criterion for mowing frequency is followed, clippings will not need to be removed. The grass clippings simply fall back into the turf and the nutrients they contain (up to 3 percent nitrogen) will be available for future use by the lawn.Since mowing frequency is dependent on the growth rate of the lawn and since fertilizer plays an important role in determining the lawn’s growth rate, you must also use common sense when fertilizing your lawn. If you have to mow the lawn too often, you should consider reducing the fertilizer application rate and using a fertilizer that has at least 50% of its nitrogen in a slow release form (i.e., sulfur-coated urea). Use of a slow release form of nitrogen is beneficial in reducing the rapid flush of growth that can occur when nitrate and/or ammonium sources of nitrogen are used. The nitrogen source(s) is provided on each fertilizer bag.If your lawn is a mixture of two turf grasses, such as common Bermuda and St. Augustine, use the proper height for the grass you want to encourage. If you want St. Augustine, cut at 3 inches; the Bermuda grass will hate it. If your lawn is shaded or receives heavy use, move the cutting height up a half inch or so from the above ranges. Also, mowing at the highest level of the stated ranges helps conserve water by creating a living mulch, shading the ground and reducing evaporation.Then be sure to fertilize correctly and mow at the proper height and interval for your lawn grass.The “Don’t Bag It” program reduces the time, money and labor involved in caring for lawns. In fact, studies have shown that homeowners who practice the “Don’t Bag It” program spend 38% less time in mowing the lawn as compared to the time required when bagging the lawn clippings. In addition, having to purchase plastic lawn bags is avoided.One of the first reactions most homeowners have when it is suggested that the lawn clippings be left on the lawn during mowing rather than bagged is that these clippings will cause thatch. This is simply not true.Grass clippings do not contain a great deal of lignin and they decompose fairly rapidly. These grass clippings are high in nutrient value. They usually contain 4% nitrogen, 2% potassium and around 1/2% phosphorus, as well as smaller amounts of other essential nutrients plants need. These all will be returned, in time, to the lawn. The return of grass clippings to the lawn is the same as giving it small amounts of fertilizer continuously with no risk of creating a thatch problem at all.